Buried halfway through this North Carolina band's fine debut is "To Be Denied," a mid-tempo ballad, a figuratively dead man's bitter summary of a failed relationship and a song Ryan Adams wishes he had written. "You said that you had changed all of the locks/But I'd already lost my keys," songwriter and vocalist Dave Wilson scornfully sings as the remaining quintet chugs along with solid folk-rock backing.

The rest of Through the Winter is nearly as good, full of roots music that understands the organic quality that made The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Randy Newman such vital links in the American experience. "It's the Shame" and "The Man Who Started It All" are well-arranged songs that manage to sound unrehearsed, thanks to the interplay between musicians--a nod for a solo, a mistake left because it sounded better that way, the tape deck left rolling in a remote cabin hoping to catch the last bit of inspiration. Like the best alt-country, Stillhouse makes music that captures the feel of a half-century ago while dealing with the day-to-day difficulties of the here and now. Sometimes funky in a Southern kind of way but mostly solemn, Through the Winter is suited to the inherent sentiments of the season.


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